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Obama Rattles Business

Words matter.

12:00 AM, Jun 26, 2010 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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One top administration official tells me he spends a lot of time trying to persuade the president that his anti-business rhetoric has serious consequences at a time when the continuation of the economic recovery rests heavily on inducing businesses to invest. The government is now too much in debt to add much demand to GDP. Consumers, too, remain heavily indebted and too worried about their financial condition to increase spending very much.      

That leaves the business sector, its cash pile high and rising, its entrepreneurs ever-ready to innovate and invest. Unfortunately, those animal spirits have been tamed, aggressive business tigers reduced to fearful pussycats by the prospect of increased regulation, tax increases that the president has promised to levy on the rich and their legatees, and naming and shaming by the president should they do something of which he disapproves. You don’t have to be an insurance company executive to identify with those hauled into the White House last week and told by the president that although he has no legal authority to do so, if they raise premiums to reflect the increased costs imposed by his health care bill, he will make them regret it. 

Believe that he would. Believe, too, that many Americans, and not only businessmen, are uncomfortable with the importation of Chicago-style, kill-or-be-killed politics into the hallowed halls of the White House.

None of this is to deny that the recent drop in sales of new houses to a record low, and the fact that almost two-thirds of Americans know a non-family member who has lost a job, are not conducive to euphoria. Reality bites. But so does a president seemingly eager to turn the private sector into his pet whipping-boy.   

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